Learning theories – Constructivism

EDX tasks:

The contents of this page will build on what I learn about Constructivism.

Learning objectives are:

  • differentiate between behaviorism and Constructivism,
  • identify and describe Bruner’s work and Vygotsky’s work, and
  • discuss examples of Constructivism in learning environments (zone of proximal development and scaffolding).

By 11:59 PM EST, USA on Friday of the week, you should submit the following:

I will create an infographic to present an overview of Constructivism and add to the learning scenario that I created for Behaviourism so it also presents objectives and examples of  Constructivism.

Constructivism is considered a family of concepts and principles about the construction of knowledge and meaning (von Glasersfeld 1987; Cobb 1994; delMas et al. 1999; Trigwell and Prosser 2004; Fosnot 2005).

Constructivism is not a philosophy of learning; it is “a model of knowing that is pedagogically useful” (Thompson 2000, p. 423) and supports multiple teaching approaches and strategies.

There is an emphasis on “learners’ active participation” and “the social nature of
learning,” which are the core principles of constructivism (Liu and Matthews
2005).

Another perspective of the constructivist paradigm is that it serves as an
epistemological model, which defines knowledge as “temporary, developmental,
socially and culturally mediated, and thus, non-objective” (Brooks & Brooks
1993, p. vii).

Brooks & Brooks, (1993) details the following about constructivism:

There are two recognized forms of constructivism

Cognitive or Piagetian constructivism (Piaget 1950, 1967, 1977), and social or Vygotskian constructivism (Vygotsky 1962, 1978). Cognitive constructivism emphasizes the mind of the individual, and views learning as simply the assimilation and
accommodation of new knowledge by learners, in other words, merely a process
of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences.

Social or Vygotskian constructivism is aimed at social transformation and
underscores the socio-cultural context in which the individual or student is
situated. It holds that the construction of individual meaning and understanding
results from mutually beneficial social or group interactions (primarily through
collaboration and negotiation).

The level of potential development is the level at which learning takes place. It comprises cognitive structures that are still in the process of maturing, but which can only mature under the guidance of or in collaboration with others.
Source: Social Constructivism

Vygotsky posited that all learning takes place in the “zone of proximal development,” which he defined as the difference between what a learner can do alone, and what he or she can do with assistance.

Constructionist’s believe that knowledge is an active process of constructing knowledge.   As yourself how that ‘active process of construction’ might occur.  Reading a book is a passive activity.  Watching videos or media is a passive activity.  What does it mean to be actively engaged in the construction of knowledge?  

Social Constructivism is the idea that the active process is socially situated. That we learning via social interactions and collaborative activities.

Vygotsky believed knowledge is not simply constructed, it is co-constructed.

Vygotsky distinguished between two developmental levels:

The level of actual development is the level of development that the learner has already reached, and is the level at which the learner is capable of solving problems independently.
The level of potential development (the “zone of proximal development”) is the level of development that the learner is capable of reaching under the guidance of teachers or in collaboration with peers. The learner is capable of solving problems and understanding material at this level that they are not capable of solving or understanding at their level of actual development; the level of potential development is the level at which learning takes place. It comprises cognitive structures that are still in the process of maturing, but which can only mature under the guidance of or in collaboration with others.

Vision on learning – according to Ku Leuven, one of Europe’s oldest universities.

Their vision on learning is based on what they believe to be one of the most common learning theories of this moment which is social constructivism.
KU Leuven’s vision text is extremely comprehensive for a learning strategy and shows elements of this learning theory. In this theory, learning is viewed as knowledge construction, which involves activity from the learner. The social aspect emphasises the fact that knowledge is constructed through the learner’s interaction with his or her environment. Meaning is constructed through interaction.

What is learning?

The following definition holds within a social constructivist vision on learning:

De Corte, (1996) states, “Learning is a constructive, cumulative, self-driven, purposeful, situated, cooperative and individually diverse process of knowledge acquisition, meaning interpretation and skill development.”

Ku Leuven further expand on their vision of learning

  • Constructive: students aren’t empty vessels which can be filled with knowledge; they are the builders of their knowledge construction. When students are provided with new information, they will actively use it.
  • Cumulative: when students learn, they build on their existing knowledge and skills. New information is linked to the existing cognitive structure. Prior knowledge is very important in this respect: it can hinder or stimulate the learning process.
  • Self-driven: students have to take their learning into their own hands. In order to become autonomous learners, metacognitive learning activities are crucial. They empower students to manage and maintain their learning processes.
  • Purposeful or intentional: effective and meaningful learning entails purposefulness. Students learn in order to reach certain goals.
  • Situated or context-bound: learning doesn’t take place in a vacuum, but in a specific social and cultural context. What students learn is irrevocably bound to the context and culture in which they acquire and use their knowledge.
  • Cooperative: learning always takes place through interaction with others. In this respect, Vygotsky’s ‘zone of close development’ plays an important role(Janssens et al., 2000) . This concept has to do with what students can’t do independently yet, but can do with a teacher’s support. Challenging students stimulates them.
  • Individual diversity: every student learns differently. One construction doesn’t always lead to the same learning activity for all students.

 

 


 

 


According to Bada & Olusegun, (2015), the basic characteristics of Constructivist Learning Environments per Tam (2000) must be considered when implementing constructivist instructional strategies:
1) Knowledge will be shared between teachers and students.
2) Teachers and students will share authority.
3) The teacher‟s role is one of a facilitator or guide.
4) Learning groups will consist of small numbers of heterogeneous students


Pedagogical Goals of Constructivist Learning Environments Honebein (1996) summarizes what he describes as the seven pedagogical goals of constructivist learning environments as:

  1. To provide experience with the knowledge construction process (students determine how they will learn).
  2. To provide experience in and appreciation for multiple perspectives (evaluation of alternative solutions).
  3. To embed learning in realistic contexts (authentic tasks).
  4. To encourage ownership and a voice in the learning process (student centered learning).
  5. To embed learning in social experience (collaboration).
  6. To encourage the use of multiple modes of representation, (video, audio text, etc.)
  7. To encourage awareness of the knowledge construction process (reflection, metacognition).

Benefits of Constructivism, Bada & Olusegun, (2015):

  1. Children learn more, and enjoy learning more when they are actively involved, rather than passive listeners.
  2. Education works best when it concentrates on thinking and understanding, rather than on rote memorization. Constructivism concentrates on learning how to think and understand.
  3. Constructivist learning is transferable. In constructivist classrooms, students create organizing principles that they can take with them to other learning settings.
  4. Constructivism gives students ownership of what they learn, since learning is based on students’ questions and explorations, and often the students have a hand in designing the assessments as well. Constructivist assessment engages the students’ initiatives and personal investments in their journals, research reports, physical models, and artistic representations. Engaging the creative instincts develops students’ abilities to express knowledge through a variety of ways. The students are also more likely to retain and transfer the new knowledge to real life.
  5. By grounding learning activities in an authentic, real-world context, constructivism stimulates and engages students. Students in constructivist classrooms learn to question things and to apply their natural curiousity to the world.
  6. Constructivism promotes social and communication skills by creating a classroom environment that emphasizes collaboration and exchange of ideas. Students must learn how to articulate their ideas clearly as well as to collaborate on tasks effectively by sharing in group projects. Students must therefore exchange ideas and so must learn to “negotiate” with others and to evaluate their contributions in a socially acceptable manner. This is essential to success in the real world, since they will always be exposed to a variety of experiences in which they will have to cooperate and navigate among the ideas of others.

Read and review the following resources and as you do, think about your identified learning experiences you have had to date.

Did you discuss and share ideas with classmates / colleagues or peers?  If it was an online learning experience, were there discussions and, or collaborative projects?  How did that support your construction of new ideas and knowledge?

Social Constructivism (background from Berkeley)

Overview of Constructivism and Social Constructivism (good overview from the University College of Dublin)

Review of Social Constructivism (good overview from the University of Georgia)

After reviewing the theory a bit more, how might this impact and influence the design of learning experiences?  Would you include group work?  Include opportunities for discussion and debate? 

These two forms of constructivism are not mutually exclusive, as social constructivism is as extension of cognitive constructivism. When used in the teaching-learning context (in particular, reform), constructivism is understood to mean social constructivism.

Scaffolding theory

Another educational psychologist working at the same time as Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, developed what most educators today know as scaffolding theory. Bruner believed that as learners begin to build on their prior knowledge and schemata, they require the active and purposeful support of instructors to be successful.  As learning continues and learners’ reliance on the instructor lessens; thus, the instructor allows more  independence (removing unnecessary help/scaffolds).

The following comes from an excellent resource per the EDX course, Overview of Constructivism and Social Constructivism (good overview from the University College of Dublin):

Role of the teacher

Constructivist teachers do not take the role of the “sage on the stage.” Instead, teachers act as a “guide on the side” providing students with opportunities to test the adequacy of their current understandings

Theory Implication for classroom
The role of the student to actively participate in their own education
Students have to accommodate & assimilate new information with their current understanding
One important aspect of controlling their own learning process is reflecting on their experiences
Students begin their study with pre-conceived notions
Students are very reluctant to give up their established schema/idea & may reject new information that challenges prior knowledge
Students may not be aware of the reasons they hold such strong ideas/schemata
Learners need to use and test ideas, skills, and information through relevant activities
Students need to know how to learn or change their thinking/learning style
Because knowledge is so communally-based, learners deserve access to knowledge of different communities
For students to learn they need to receive different ‘lenses’ to see things in new ways.
Learners need guidance through the ZDP
In social constructivism tutors and peers play a vital role in learning

Role of the student

The expectation within a constructivist learning environment is that the students plays a more active role in, and accepts more responsibility for their own learning.

Theory Implication for classroom
The role of the student to actively participate in their own education
Students have to accommodate & assimilate new information with their current understanding
One important aspect of controlling their own learning process is reflecting on their experiences
Students begin their study with pre-conceived notions
Students are very reluctant to give up their established schema/idea & may reject new information that challenges prior knowledge
Students may not be aware of the reasons they hold such strong ideas/schemata
Learners need to use and test ideas, skills, and information through relevant activities
Students need to know how to learn or change their thinking/learning style
Because knowledge is so communally-based, learners deserve access to knowledge of different communities
For students to learn they need to receive different ‘lenses’ to see things in new ways.
Learners need guidance through the ZDP
In social constructivism tutors and peers play a vital role in learning

Resources

Bada, S. O., & Olusegun, S. (2015). Constructivism learning theory: A paradigm for teaching and learning. Journal of Research & Method in Education5(6), 66-70.

Brooks, J. G. and M. G. Brooks.1993. In search of understanding: The case for
constructivist classrooms. Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development. Alexandria, VA

De Corte, E. (1996). Actief leren binnen krachtige onderwijsleeromgevingen. Impuls voor onderwijsbegeleiding, 4, pp. 145-156.

Hassad, R. A. (2011). Constructivist and behaviorist approaches: Development and initial evaluation of a teaching practice scale for introductory statistics at the college level. Numeracy4(2), 7.

Janssens, S., Verschaffel, L., De Corte, E., Elen, J., Lowyck, J., Struyf, E., Van Damme, J., & Vandenberghe, R. (2000). Didactiek in beweging. Wolters-Plantyn.

Piaget, J. 1950. The psychology of intelligence. London. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
———. 1967. Biologie et connaissance (Biology and knowledge). Paris: Gallimard.
———. 1977. Psychology and epistemology: Towards a theory of knowledge. NewYork:
Penguin.

Vygotsky, L.S. 1962. Thought and language. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/11193-000
———. 1978. Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Additional resources

Constructivism and Technology (YouTube video)

Engineering of Learning: Conceptualizing e-Didactics (United Nations report)

What Is the Zone of Proximal Development? (article from SimplyPsychology)

Interaction Between Learning and Development (academic article by Lev S. Vygotsky, 1978)

Constructivism (article from learning-theories.com)

https://teachtolearn2202.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/learning-theories-in-a-digital-age/

Looking at Connectivism as a New Learning Theory

2.5 Constructivism

Driscoll, M. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction. Allyn & Bacon, Boston: MA

Hill, W.F. (2002) Learning: A survey of psychological interpretation (7th ed), Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA.

Jordan, A., Carlile, O., & Stack, A. (2008). Approaches to learning: A guide for teachers. McGraw-Hill, Open University Press: Berkshire.

Ormrod, J.E. (1995). Human Learning (2nd ed.). New Jersey, Prentice Hall.

Ryder, M (2009) Instructional Design Models. Downloaded from http://carbon.cudenver.edu/~mryder/itc_data/idmodels.html on 30 March 2009)

Selected Resources

List of learning theories and how they apply to practice:
http://icebreakerideas.com/learning-theories/

List of models and good info on each:
http://carbon.cudenver.edu/~mryder/itc_data/idmodels.html

Outline of learning theories:
http://www.learning-theories.com/